I readily admit from the get-go that I am not a big NASCAR fan. Heck, I'd go as far to say that it really doesn't have that much of an "excitement" factor for me, but living in the Carolinas you can't swing a dead cat without hitting something that has somebody's favorite driver's number on it. NASCAR is as much a part of the culture of the South as buttermilk biscuits and grits with "redeye" gravy. There is no faster way to get your ass kicked, than to walk into a convenience store in Cabarrus County and yell, "Earnhardt Sucks!!" I honestly think if I put more effort into it I might enjoy it more...then again I enjoy watching Rugby...it's not for everybody to say the least...I get the mindset of your typical NASCAR fan.
It's one thing to bring your cooler and sit in the stands and another to have a nice big ass suite where they wait on you hand and foot while watching them do left turns all day, but to really get a feel for this kind of racing you have to have an infield pass. So, I have this friend that enjoys this sport and he invites me to join him every year for the NASCAR All-Star event in Charlotte, NC.
The infield is a primordal oozing of all types of civilized human beings. NASCAR gets a bad reputation for being this redneckish-Hillbilly type of environment...yes, they do permeate the fan base but from where I was sitting, NASCAR is able to attract some high-rollers in that fan base as well. That is evident by the amount of very expensive RVs situated in the infield. Seriously, what better way to enjoy a sporting event than having the luxury of finishing the race, retreating to the air-conditioned confines of a palace on wheels, enjoying a few more adult beverages and not worrying about getting into traffic until the morning?
Parked right along side those tricked out million dollar rigs are your blue collar types that drive the official vehicle of the NASCAR infield...the converted THOMAS School bus. I must have seen about forty of them over the course of the weekend with endless amounts of modifications. Being a child of the seventies, my first thought was: "When was David Cassidy, Shirley Jones and the rest of the Partridge Family going to perform their greatest hits?" I was humming that damn theme song every time I walked by one of those buses and I could have sworn I saw Danny Bonaducci duck into a Porta-John right before the Green flag was dropped.
What makes the retired school bus such a popular form of transportation for the infield inhabitants? Your not going to be able to see the race sitting in the infield unless your elevated to some degree...that is, unless your content, like many were, by watching it on the televisions next to their nice RVs spreading Grey Poupon and Brie on French Bread with thinly sliced pastrami. "Get Vertical" is the war cry in the infield and there is no better platform for race watching than on top of a big ass school bus! Why is that you ask? You can roll a Thomas school bus down an incline and it will structurally remain intact, seriously, you want your children to be safe driving that 1.5 miles to school, don't cha? NASCAR fans have taken that over-engineered mindset and transformed the "sloth moving scourge" of morning commuters everywhere into a well respected pachyderm with railings and a platform capable of supporting 40-50 well hydrated race fans. The inventiveness of these people knows no bounds.
Just beneath the RVs and BAB's (Big Ass Buses) in the pecking order of a typical NASCAR infield fall the "Tent Dwellers." Nothing is cheap anymore and that includes NASCAR...heck, an individual ticket for the infield, obtained ahead of time, runs fifty bucks. Throw in the spot itself, which is around 200 hundred dollars and you've got to get a second mortgage just to see Dale Jr. finish last... again. I don't know about the other speedways but Charlotte has a infield bathhouse, which is damn convenient for life in a tent. Don't feel sorry for these people. I saw some setups that would make an Arab Sheik feel like he was living in a lean-to shelter. A lot of these fans are bringing in generators that can run small appliances such as fans, stove units, HD TV's and air conditioners...yes, I said AC. I'm thinking, if you can drag all that crap out there, why not just spend extra and rent a friggin RV??
That about sums up my general observations of life in a NASCAR infield. Do yourself a favor and take in one of these races. I had a blast and even if your not quite the NASCAR fan...like me...there is still plenty to do; it's just a longer version of football tailgating and the "People Watching" alone would make for another entertaining blog entry. As I'm officially partaking in these events, I might want to latch onto a driver to keep me interested...there is only one driver that qualifies name wise that would be worth following... but alas, Dick Trickle is retired...ok, we'll settle on Ricky Bobby. See you in the winner's circle.